Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Darent Valley Walk Part 5 - Darenth to Dartford Central Park

Regular readers of this blog will know that over the last year or so I have been walking the Darent Valley Path in bite sized chunks.

This post follows on from my last walk which ended near the village church in Darenth. The path passes through meadows closely following the bank of the river itself. The area is dotted with worked out gravel pits which are now used as private fishing lakes.

The path passes under the M25 motorway in the village of Hawley and eventually emerges onto the busy A225 (Dartford to Sevenoaks road).

Thankfully the path only follows the A225 for a short distance before returning to the river bank.
The river at this point flows quite rapidly despite being shallow and weed filled.

The Darent was once renowned for an abundance of trout but years of pollution by the riverside industries and over-extraction by water companies put paid to that. Efforts are now being made to rehabilitate the river but it will take many more years to reverse.

I came across this impromptu rope swing hanging from a tree over the river. It brought back memories of the sort of mischief I used to get up to when I was a kid! I used to spend much of my school Summer holidays mucking about in the river at Horton Kirby, catching tadpoles and getting wet and muddy.
One of the industries that used to operate on this stretch of the Darent was the manufacture of gunpowder. The water from the river was channelled through sluices to provide power for the powder mill machinery.

The first powder mill was established in 1732 and by 1810 Dartford had become the largest centre of production in the UK. Dartford powder was known for it's high quality. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the safety standards at the mill. There were frequent explosions and many fatalities.

A news report from November 1790....

" The 12th, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the inhabitants of Dartford and of the country for several miles around were alarmed by a dreadful concussion occasioned by the explosion of seventy barrels of gunpowder at the works of Messrs. Pigou and Andrews. Six men were destroyed in the dreadful havoc, most of whom have left wives and families behind them. The foreman of the works has left a wife and seven children."

The path continues on passing through Brooklands Lakes, another former gravel pit, used as a fishing lake since the 1930's. It was originally known as Ellingham's Ponds. During the Second World War it was camouflaged to prevent German bombers from locating a nearby Vickers armaments factory.

The path and river pass through the Princes Tunnel into Dartford Central Park. The tunnel was built in 1923 and passes under the Dartford by-pass. The road was officially opened on 19th November 1924 by the Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VIII).

Dartford Central Park which dates back to 1905 is well worth a visit. The ornamental flower beds are maintained to a very high standard and provide a sea of colour during the Summer months.

A replica Edwardian bandstand and cafe have recently been opened and there is an excellent children's play area.

At the other end of the park (and the end of this particular walk) are Dartford Central Library and the war memorial.

My fellow blogger Emm (a South African ex pat living in the UK for the last few years) wrote a post on her blog about the park and library.

The war memorial designed by Arthur Walker was unveiled on 7th May 1922 and originally contained the names of 345 local men who perished in the Great War. Additional names were added after World War II and subsequent conflicts.

Strangely one of the men listed on the memorial has exactly the same initial and surname as me but is not a relation....

On a lighter note, when I was very young I used to think the statue was a postman carrying a bag of letters on his back. The innocence of youth.

I will shortly be writing up the last leg of my Darent Valley Walk which covers the section from Dartford Central park to the Thames.

UPDATE - for the final leg of My Darent Valley Walk please see here

In the meantime, if you have enjoyed reading this post you may also like....

1 comment:

  1. Hee! Thanks for the shout out! I have yet to visit central Park which is diabolical, because I have been promising to for over 2 years!

    I've noticed frankly unacceptable levels of pollution in a lot of Kent streams and rivers, I must say.

    Thank you for the lovely photos and info in this post. It seems like a lovely walk!